J2 Matchday 5
I won't keep you too long (for a change) with this, I promise. A baking hot day, 80 minutes of frustration, and then, finally, a goal, breaking our drought that had lasted for roughly 380 minutes. The right result on the run of play, but for so long it looked like we'd end up with our third 0-0 of the Golden Week period.
At the selection table we were missing the suspended Roberto Cesar, and the recently crocked Pedro Junior, so any doubt about whether Daiki Takamatsu had done enough to keep his job up front became moot as he was the only recognised striker we had available. Yohei Kajiyama was listed as a forward, but roamed wherever he fancied as usual. In midfield, we finally got to see Kazumasa Uesato, and our new number 32 joined Yuhei Tokunaga on holding role duty (more on that later), while on the left flank Hokuto Nakamura came in for his first start since the first game of the season, replacing Naotake Hanyu - though Roswell was to end up being the hero. Jade North made the bench, as did Sotan Tanabe, both to warm applause.
Much was made of Toyama's "3-3-3-1" in the build-up, but in truth their formation was fairly fluid, and alternated (the best that we could make out) between 5-3-1-1 when we had the ball, to 3-1-4-2 when they came forward. If someone wants to pull me up on that and tell me different I'll take your word for it, but thats the best Tokyo Bairn and I could deduce as we basted and slowly marinated in the afternoon sun. The terms of Ryo Hiraide's loan meant he was ineligible to play, which was a shame as I was looking forward to seeing his massive cranium and ridiculous hairstyle, but there you go, you can't win 'em all etc. etc.
First half was predictable and tedious. Toyama sat back, we probed, but with Takamatsu doing an excellent impersonation of a statue, there was little movement in our final third and we were reduced to shots from distance. Casual, Morishige and Uesato all tried long-rangers, and then our best chance fell to Casual, who forced an excellent low save from their keeper in the 40th minute. Despite our dominance, I'd wager not a single person in the crowd of 14,174 was surprised we retired to the sheds at 0-0.
And so it continued in the second half, the home end urged the players to shoot, Toyama were resolute defensively and looked somewhat of a threat on the counter, though their legs grew heavy as they had been forced into two substitutions due to injuries in the first half. We continued to dominate possession, Tokunaga was just wide with a rasper, but persisting with two defensive midfielders wasn't getting us anywhere (no link, I just want to make a point), so finally, in the 68th minute, Hanyu came on for Uesato (Tatsuya Yazawa had replaced Hokuto 12 minutes earlier). This sort of role may be the future for Roswell, as we all know he struggles to get through 90 minutes, so using him in half hour-or-so bursts could help both himself and the team.
Our pressure grew, but in the 75th minute, right after Takumi Abe had just failed to get on the end of a Kenta Mukuhara cross, our young left back was beaten to an excellent ball in from the right, with Shuichi Gonda called into action to save the header from Seo (the Korean fella we had on loan last year) down to his left. And then, finally, six minutes later...A GOAL! Hold the back page! Tokyo have scored! Hanyu's first since Shonan away last July, and it was the result of some clever work from Yazawa, who controlled Casual's throw in from the left on his chest, then flicked it into the path of Hanyu, making a darting run into the box. After a deft first touch, Roswell shot with power from 12 yards, pretty much straight at the keeper, but he could only parry it into the net with his right hand, and the drought was broken.
Most pleasing after the goal, we continued to play and looked likely to grab a second. Takamatsu (who was slightly better second half) fired a header from the penalty spot right at the keeper, and we kept the ball well in the closing stages, meaning there was no squeaky bum time, as there usually was after we had taken the lead at home (and then almost always lost it) in J1 last year.
Three points banked, and even though its still very early doors, it was nice to see we moved up six spots in the table to seventh, two points out of the promotion places. The Tokyo Kop sang their approval and Roswell sobbed his way through the hero interview, but even though a win, any win was all that mattered, it would be wrong to get carried away and think we've turned a corner. The frustration most fans have been feeling will not be swept away with one (fairly unconvincing) win, and to that end, while I don't neccessarily agree with this entirely, I'll leave the last word to "Anonymous," who posted to my Toyama Preview piece about two hours after the game ended: "Another shitty performance by FC Tokyo ! J1 level is far, far away !! "
Chin up son! Its Kusatsu away next weekend.
You'll Never Walk Alone